December 20, 2004

The Enchanting Mystery

"Dude, i don't know where God's leading you with all the stuff you been reading and doing lately, but it kinda scares me, and i think i want to tag along."

So began my weekend, and I've been thinking about that statement, from a very dear friend of mine, for the better part of two days now. On the one hand, it makes me very excited - I think I finally noticed that I really am starting to change, to feel something deeper. On the other hand, it scares the living daylights out of me; I don't want to lead anyone astray, but I know that I can't contain my questions, my insights, my thoughts, my feelings - my concerns - anymore.

And so I begin to change. It's funny how God does that. We read this book about evolution a little while ago, I may have mentioned it. Anyway, the guy - his name was David - talks about evolution as more or less this thing that everyone knows about already: change. Stuff (the very scientific word that we apparently couldn't get away with using in our paper) changes to fit the place it calls home. If it doesn't change when home changes, it either moves to another place or stays and dies. That's evolution in a nutshell.

And it occurred to me that it can't possibly work quite like that. I mean, it's a nice observation for salamanders and orange guppies and things like that, but for people it seems to work the other way around. For starters, think about welfare - all the people who don't get a job go on welfare and they survive to breed more people who can't get a job. And it's nice for some people who really can't make a living and are really trying to get a job and can't, but for the rest of them, it's a free ride.

And then there's Christians. Or rather, there's followers of Jesus. I'm tired of using the term "Christian;" there are too many people (all of them) who have a different opinion about what this word means, and for most of them, it's bad. And so I'll talk about those people who follow Jesus. When a person becomes a Jesus-follower in today's American culture (not to mention anywhere else, like Iraq), they tend to become "maladaptive," as they say in cultured circles; they get one step closer to kicking the bucket, and kicking it hard. For lots of people, the minute you say "I'm a Christian," you're denounced as some kind of raving fundamentalist lunatic because of a few nice old guys who wear white collared shirts and use other people's money to talk on TV, as opposed to all those other people who really try to make the world a better place.

Or is it that we're adapting to a bigger world than that? When a person becomes a Jesus-follower (again, I use the term because lots of people say they're Christians and couldn't give a flying hoot about Jesus or what He said was a good thing to do), do they adapt to some kind of larger world that has stuff we can't see? Is it some kind of adaptation to know Jesus?

Incidentally, I hate the term "adaptation," it's so ... blah. It has no excitement, and I tend to find life a whole lot more exciting than merely surviving and hoping my few better qualities get passed on to some little versions of me and my wife (and ironically, even that description sounds more exciting than most biologists put it - they must live boring lives). But I digress.

Both sides have their issues. The modernists are mostly legalists, people who want it cut-and-dry, in a world where there is no such thing, regardless of what they want. Yet postmodernists tend to reject most, if not all, of what their predecessors had to say because it rubs them the wrong way. I hate to break it to both sides, but you're all missing something by ignoring each other. The modernists forget that there IS a mystery and a deep enchantment to the gospel, while the postmodernists forget that sin is not to be tolerated; love one another, but do not tolerate sin (the postmodernist reaction to the legalist modes of dealing with sin is really harsh, and I think they swung the pendulum a little too far to the right when they more or less say to ignore another person's sin since yours is just as bad).

I've been most distressed as of late, about this whole process of change that I feel like I've begun, this journey upon which I've embarked, for lands unknown. Every book I've read has talked about how the modernist church wanted these cut-and-dry answers to protect themselves from the great unknown, to avoid the mystery in life. And yet the new generation wants that mystery, they want it to be exciting and fulfilling and emotional - and spiritual.

I hate that. I always knew the answers growing up, or I could fake it and pass something random off as the answer until I could figure it out. I hate not knowing something, but when I really stop and think, I'm really more fulfilled by the process of finding the answer. I love to think deep about it; I'm enchanted by its mystery.

So I guess one of my conclusions is that what's important is the journey - how one arrives at an answer, as much as the answer itself is important. If you do it wrong, you'll probably get a lot less out of it, and learn a lot less along the way. I hope that on this journey I've begun, others will be drawn to my questions and seek the answers themselves, that my curiosity will be insatiable. I'm fascinated by the gospel, by its paradox and yet its truth, by its beauty - by its enchanting mystery.

1 comment:

Jutz said...

You spandrel.